Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Mary E. Hughson, Suspected Double Black Widow – Muskegon, Michigan 1895


FULL TEXT: Muskegon, Mich., April 11. – Mrs. Mary E. Houghson [sic; the correct spelling is, apparently, "Hughson"] and George W. King were arrested to-day charged with the murder by poison of Nathan Douglas in July, 1892, at Fruitport, this county. They were committed to jail without bail and steadfastly refused to be interviewed, referring all questioners to their attorney, Hon. F. W. Cook. The arrest of the couple grew out of the trouble in which King found himself a few weeks ago when he was on trial charged with arson – the burning of his drug store on Ottawa street.

At the time King was in jail a woman called to see him and was admitted by Sheriff Smith. He did not know the woman and her actions were so suspicious that he began inquiries which resulted in the arrest of the two as stated. He had heard of the sudden death of an old soldier in Fruitport named Nathan Douglas, in 1892, and says he learned that Mary E. Hissong was married to Mary Douglas at Fruitport, by Nathan Cummings, a justice of the peace, on May 16, 1892, and that Douglas died July 20, 1892, at his home one mile west of Fruitport village sixty-four days after his marriage, and that there were present at the time of his death the two defendants and Eunice Williams, Douglas sister, who makes the complaint.

Sheriff Smith ascertained that Douglas made a will some time before, which was drawn up and witnessed by George W. King in this city seven days before the death of Douglas. The other witness to the signature was Albert S. True, of Fruitland. In this will Douglas bequeathed his farm his farm of forty-seven acres and $200 in personal property to his wife. Douglas was a member of a K. O. T. M. tent in this city, but when a tent was organized in Fruitport he was transferred to it. He carried $2,000 insurance in that order, which was made payable to his sister, Mrs. Eunice Williams, who had lived with him and kept house for him for about five years, but shortly after his marriage he had made a payable to his wife. Mrs. Douglas, the widow, and Martin V. Fadner, were married in this city December 19, 1894, she was united in marriage to Henry W. Houghson [sic], in this city. The trouble between Fadner and his wife was due to her insisting that he should give her his pension. When Mrs. Houghson first came to this city she was the wife of Justin L. Hissong, a printer. They were married in Big Rapids January, 1875, her maiden name being Mary E. Root. Hissong, who was a compositor on the Morning News, died suddenly in March 1890, his life insurance of $1,000 going to his widow. In investigating Douglas’ death the sheriff learned from Douglas’ sister, Mrs. Williams, that he had often told her that he had often told her that he had made a will and she was provided for, and she knew his policy ran to her. Douglas was 52 years old, was a veteran soldier, had lived in Fruitport many years and was generally respected. He was always considered strong and healthy and his sudden death was a surprise in the neighborhood. His body was buried in the Spring Lake cemetery, the funeral being attended by veteran soldiers and Maccabees.

A week ago Friday the body of Mr. Douglas was taken up and the stomach, brain and intestines sent to Ann Arbor for analysis. Prof. V. C. Vaughan says that he found quantities of arsenic in the brain and other organs and that there was enough present to kill. Last evening Sheriff Smith and Justice Collins drove to the home of Mrs. Williams in Fairport and at about 11:30 o’clock she swore to the complaintant in about 50 years old and with her husband, who is blind, resides on a form near Fruitport village.

The officer’s theory is that Douglas’ death was not a natural one that the analysis demonstrated that Douglas evidently died from arsenical poisoning, that some of the evidence is circumstantial but that most of it is direct. Mrs. Houghton received some $3,500 in property and cash after the death of Douglas, and it is claimed King was the beneficiary of it.

[“She Had 4 Husbands – Mrs. Houghson, Of Fruitport, Charged With Murder. – George W. King, of Muskegon, Also Placed Under Arrest. – Nathan Douglas, An Old Soldier, The Alleged Victim. – Peculiar Circumstances Connected With Another Husband’s Death.” The Detroit Free Press (Mi.), Apr. 12, 1895, p. 1]

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Also see: Kevin Collier, “SL undertaker at center of murder trial,” Grand Haven Tribune (Mi.), Jun 17, 2013

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For links to other cases of woman who murdered 2 or more husbands (or paramours), see Black Widow Serial Killers.

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